1. Every plant will die if light, water or nutrients are withheld for long enough. It is natural to think of plants in general as having evolved a strong drive for resource acquisition as a survival mechanism. All else being equal, an individual that sequesters more material from the environment than its neighbour must be at a competitive advantage. 2. But the resource capture imperative seems at odds with the profligacy of some characteristic developmental and metabolic processes in many plants. Here, using leaf senescence as a vantage point, we consider whether a kind of wilful inefficiency of resource use may not be essential for success as a terrestrial autotroph.